Wednesday, November 8, 2017

5 Ways to Become One of the Fastest Growing Dispensaries

As cannabis dispensaries continue to emerge, the rules of how best to handle customers are still largely unwritten. Although many owners and employees will borrow from the bartender’s playbook on how best to attract and keep customers, cannabis is also a completely unique industry that comes with its own advantages and challenges. No matter how much a budtender knows about cannabis, even the most knowledgeable employee can fail to connect with a customer without the right level of training and ability to communicate. For an idea of how to best create and hold onto a reliable customer base in a rapidly growing industry, here are some tips that can help employees maximize their potential as budtenders.

1.     Customer experience trumps customer service.

Although there are plenty of ways that cannabis differs from other industries, a golden rule of sales is still as important as ever: know the customer. While employees need to set the tone with a clean and orderly dispensary, they also need to be able to see from the customer’s perspective to complete the experience. With legal cannabis dispensaries only recently becoming possible, it’s crucial for budtenders to make sure that the customer experience feels completely legitimate and above-board, which is something that many dispensaries have struggled with. A well-run dispensary will make sure to have a courteous and knowledgeable employee at the front desk to encourage a welcoming environment, which will then set the budtenders up for success.

Even though that can seem like common sense, many dispensaries utilize a setup closer to a popular bar that has a bouncer checking IDs at the door. While it’s definitely a good thing to have a front desk employee who projects authority, the best cannabis dispensaries create a fun and friendly atmosphere from the moment a customer walks in the door. Before a customer even looks at a strain or a product, he or she should feel perfectly comfortable and on the way to having a positive experience. Appropriate customer service is also a must for any thriving dispensary, yet crafting the right experience and knowing what customers do and don’t want is how a dispensary can hone in on a consistent customer base. If any part of the transaction is uncomfortable or feels like a hassle, a customer is much more likely to shop around for a different dispensary.

            2. Loyal customers That Buy Often

Being able to create and manage loyal customers is the type of thing that can make or break a dispensary. The good news is that there are many different ways to attracting loyalty, allowing a dispensary to get a little creative when it comes to turning the experience into regular clients. Whether dispensaries do giveaway games, loyalty cards or something completely unique, encouraging loyalty by engaging customers can be a game-changer that will pay off enormously down the road. A dispensary that can bring back even five percent of new clients can see a sizeable uptick in sales and attracting new customers can be up to 25 times more expensive than holding onto existing ones.  

Not only do loyal customers tend to buy more often, a happy customer is also much more likely to recommend a dispensary to a friend with a consistently positive experience. Even if a customer only wants a small amount, sending them on their way happy can lead to long-term relationship that is great for both dispensary owners and employees.

            3. It doesn’t matter what you know about the products if you can’t communicate well

No matter where your dispensary is, budtenders will find out quickly that many customers walk in with little to no knowledge of cannabis, which can be both a challenge and a tremendous opportunity for a budtender who knows how to communicate. By asking one or two basic questions about what a customer is looking for, an employee should be able to obtain a general idea of what a customer’s knowledge base is. If a customer is a beginner, a budtender who quickly rattles off the names and attributes of each strain will be overwhelming and can even be perceived as condescending for someone brand new to cannabis.

Instead of trying to impress a new customer with encyclopedic knowledge, a budtender is better served by keeping it simple and letting a customer guide the conversation, answering questions and providing pointers wherever necessary. On the other hand, if a customer is more experienced with cannabis and loves to talk shop, it should be fairly easy to pick up on and well-trained budtenders will have a chance to naturally showcase their own expertise. Regardless of the knowledge level of a customer, however, a good employee will be able to figure out the experience of the customer and communicate well enough to ensure the customer walks away with exactly what he or she is looking for.
            4. Truly serving customers will boost sales substantially

The key to creating that coveted positive customer experience can be different for each dispensary, but a couple of tried and tested methods can be great starting points. Just like with grocery stores, customers walk into a dispensary expecting a loyalty program, which is why having a viable one is pretty much an elemental part of setting up shop. After all, roughly three out of four dispensary visitors want to see some sort of a rewards system, leaving little reason to fight the trend and plenty of incentive to come up with a creative idea to stand out from the crowd. The success or failure of a loyalty program will also largely rest in the hands of employees, which is why having ample budtender input can be an important part of the process.

How well a budtender showcases and describes the product will also be central to a dispensary’s success, as a little nuance and training can go a long way in making an impression on a customer. While an employee should project confidence about the quality of all products, no customer wants to hear that every flavor is the greatest cannabis that has ever been grown.

Instead of going over the top, being authentic about the products and creating an honest dialog can give an employee – and entire dispensary – much more credibility while encouraging customer loyalty. If a budtender can listen, communicate authentically and meet basic customer expectations, it’s much easier for a customer to hone in on the right product and head out with an experience worth repeating.

            5. The only way to achieve the top four is effective budtender training

Even if keeping a light and fun atmosphere is vital to your dispensary, the right type of formal training for budtenders and the employees can help a dispensary seize its potential. While budtenders who know the products is obviously extremely important, employees who listen to customers and can adapt to different needs will give a dispensary a huge lift over the competition. Training should also be focused on understanding the customer’s point of view, helping ensure a positive experience for a wide range of different clients. With employees who can understand the customer and consistently offer a positive atmosphere, a dispensary can not only carve out a loyal customer base but see consistent expansion in sales growth. Considering the general high-quality level of product that is in most dispensaries, the key to a thriving dispensary is often a well-trained staff that understands how to put the customer experience first.

Tips for Reducing Liability

Tips for Reducing Liability

The dream of owning your dispensary probably didn’t begin with looking at the potential for liability, yet knowing the risks and warding off problems are both fundamental components of operating a successful dispensary. While owners need to do everything possible on the macro level, much of the legal exposure comes with the staff and the everyday operations, making it crucially important to have budtenders who take liability seriously every day they are selling cannabis. With the cannabis industry continuing to expand into uncharted territories, the dispensaries that put together an appropriate game plan to reduce liability will have a significant long-term advantage over those that don’t make liability a focus. Here are a few things that owners and employees of every dispensary need to think about.

See your dispensary through the eyes of a new customer.

In addition to being good advice for attracting and holding onto customers, seeing from a new customer’s perspective is also an important first step for limiting liability. Even though many customers will walk in the door being very experienced with cannabis, the newfound legality will also attract many who have had little to no cannabis exposure whatsoever. That’s why it’s very important that budtenders know the effects of all the different products on display, as the last thing you want to do is set up a new customer with a product that is not a good fit. Promoting strains with lower THC levels for inexperienced customers can be a simple way to limit liability as well as earn the trust of a potential long-term customer.

Additionally, budtenders need to be very clear about the effects of other products that may be more intense or last longer than smoking or vaping. In short, budtenders who provide appropriate warnings to the inexperienced will significantly reduce liability while cultivating a relationship based on honesty and responsibility. If customers feel ill-treated or witness potential in-store violations, however, they’re much more likely to submit a complaint to the local authorities about your dispensary. Instead of gaining a customer, you may end up with an unwanted visit from local law enforcement, or worse.

Know the rules and don’t downplay the basics.

It’s an exciting time for cannabis sellers and cultivators, as public opinion continues to shift in favor of widespread legalization. But even with steadily improving public opinion, a vocal minority would love to shut down every dispensary possible, which is why every owner/employee needs to ensure that a dispensary appears completely legitimate at all times. For starters, it’s critical to thoroughly read up on all local and state laws well before going operational and to stay up on any changes that might apply. Just like with liquor stores, basics like clearly posting your license are a must, but maintaining a storefront that is fully up to code is equally as important when it comes to limiting any legal liability.

Beyond having the right license and legal knowledge, having budtenders who are strict with the execution of the rules is also a fundamental part of curbing legal exposure. Having a staff that can have a little fun with the customers is also a good business strategy, but there can be no wiggle room at all when it comes to selling to the appropriate ages and not selling more than a customer can legally carry. Sooner or later, a staff is very likely to experience sob stories about how an 18-year-old should be allowed to purchase cannabis. Regardless of whether a budtender agrees, making an exception for a customer is the type of mistake that can completely bring down a dispensary, or at least create a serious legal headache.

Training as an ongoing process.

One of the best ways to ensure a dispensary has budtenders who know how to correctly communicate with customers is by having an effective training program, which can take a variety of forms. Whether a program is rigid and formal or on the lighter side, it’s vital to stress the importance of listening and communicating as well as hammering home the fundamentals of liability. Running a training program before a budtender hits the floor might also not be enough, which is why it is a good idea to follow-up and test budtenders once they have had real experience with customers. After all, teaching the nuts and bolts of communicating and avoiding liability is only a starting point because most tricky situations that could arise cannot be printed in a training manual. The best dispensaries will have systems in place to continually refine the process, deal with questions that budtenders have, and ultimately make any adjustments to the training program or overall policy that are necessary. Dispensaries that take the time to properly educate budtenders on an ongoing basis will not only be helping the overall business but will be in a better position to see and handle any potential liabilities.

Don’t make your dispensary a target.

It’s very possible that we’ll soon get to the point where cannabis dispensaries are as welcomed as other local storefronts. Unfortunately, that time has not yet arrived. In the meantime, seeing your dispensary through the eyes of the surrounding community is a great way to create a smooth and lasting operation, one that won’t become the target of locals who don’t want a dispensary in the neighborhood. Although dispensaries operate above-board nowadays, they are still subject to much more scrutiny than other local businesses and upsetting the community with outlandish signs or promotional material is a great way to draw negative attention. Unlike former eras and other products, modern day cannabis sales largely rely upon social media and online marketing in addition to in-store service, which is why many feel comfortable with a modest storefront instead of trying to make a visual splash. Most dispensaries also have strict rules about loitering outside the storefront, as creating a hangout is one of the easiest ways to draw unnecessary attention.  

For particularly tricky neighborhoods, many dispensaries even adopt a name that alludes to cannabis without explicitly saying that it’s a dispensary. Other dispensaries even create business names that are not related at all, allowing the dispensary to operate under the radar of any prying eyes. More than anything, it’s important to find a strategy that allows your dispensary to blend into your local environment.

Although you need to make it clear to prospective customers that they’ve come to the right spot, upsetting the wrong locals during a transitional period for the industry could bring unwanted scrutiny as well as an increase in potential legal exposure. Even if promoting the right environment can feel like an arduous process, strictly playing by the rules and getting ahead of any possible liability will let you get back to focusing on the elements that brought you into the industry in the first place.